USA Clinic at Narnia Stables, Connecticut with Meg and Luther Brauch. 2016
Kathleen Coleman Ladendecker
I’m still making my way through 32 (!!!) pages of notes that I took in my handy little notebook. That was a fantastic clinic! So much gratitude to Meg, Luther, and Rebecca, and especially to all of the participants who were in the spotlight so that we could all learn. There was so much to experience with each pair at a different spot on their journey. Thank you all!
Meg Brauch ST Instructor
It was truly a fabulous weekend of learning here at Narnia Stables. The temperature reached 96˚F on Saturday with oppressive humidity, but Rebecca’s enthusiasm,immense knowledge and generosity to share it, and her continued stamina throughout the day despite the weather kept us all intently focused on the work.
I’m sure you will see some individual rider reports as well, but I will share with you some of my take-aways.
In Straightness Training we must have a horse in balance, not only in the physical state, but also in his mental state, emotions, and spirit as well. Without having a horse in a good place mentally, you cannot address the physical areas.
The circle is one of the most difficult exercise to correctly ride. Developing proper LFS is critical to all other ST work. The lateral bend encourages the forward down tendency. Really looking for the search forward down while keeping the center of mass back was a focal point for many of the horses. We could really see when horses were correctly searching toward the outside hand while staying in balance.
Learning to juggle the balls of balance, suppleness and shape first, and then bringing in the rhythm and tempo to further refine the work. Developing connection from behind and using our energy field to create the tomato shape while keeping the center of mass back was also really well demonstrated. We saw some really brilliant work with Carolyn’s pony Abra in this area.
While we can’t change the skeleton of the horse, we can always change the muscles to create a pysically healthy and balanced animal.
For me, finding the weapon line and that connection to improve my lateral work both on the ground and under saddle in my private lessons was critical. With Renfrew, when I found the weapon line on the ground, my connection with the hind leg and therefore the half pass improved dramatically.
Rebecca was able to squeeze many of us into our stretch zone, but her kind and empathetic teaching style, we often didn’t even realize we were being brought out of our comfort zone. It is those 2mm differences that make the big changes in the long run.
There were so many nuances in the work that we were able explore and see at a deeper level, even with the very basic exercises. The details in the half halts were explained thoroughly and we all able to see the effects of the correct use of the Steinbrecht check.
We had a lovely mix of auditors, some who were very new to ST as well as many HSC and Mastery course members. Everyone left inspired and feeling like they had learned so much over the course of the weekend. All of the horses did very well despite the heat. We hosed many of them before bringing them up to stay cool so if they look wet in the pictures that is why. A HUGE thank you to Mastery Student, Narnia boarder, and friend Katherine Nee for her photography this weekend. I’m off to play in my laboratory now and see what I can apply from the weekend. Peace, love and Straightness Training my friends.
Oh, there were sooooo MANY insights that I saw and felt. The number 1 for me and I really mean a light bulb EXPLODED...an epiphany of sorts, was how to work towards the "tomato" shape with Abra...actually seeing where I needed to put her COM to achieve the shoulder freedom and lightness. This will take time and patience, but already Abra is responding nicely to the cues for it. Today she was amazing on the straight-away and not once tried to move her haunches-in when I asked for more "tomato" from her. I stop her frequently and ask for the shape, rewarding her profusely when she achieves it. It is harder with the half-pass, but I am taking it slow with her and she is definitely figuring it out...putting it all together. I cannot thank you enough for showing me that small detail and how important it is to achieving quality in the movements. I am now incorporating it with my other 3 ponies. They are all so very different so I ask for the COM cue with the energy that will match each personality, but keeping that image of weight towards the hind legs and free shoulders clearly in my mind. THANK YOU!!
Delaine M Wright
I'm one of those people who have a hard time choosing "just one thing"... which is why I like dessert buffets and breakfast... lol And there were sooooo many enlightening moments in this clinic. I definitely had AHH-HAA's myself with each of what everyone above has already said BUT - the one thread for me that kept repeating itself was getting to see (and I mean REALLY SEE!!) the "one step at a time"'s and the artistic 2mm adjustments that made TREMENDOUS differences for each horse and human. QUALITY not quantity... Quality in the balance, suppleness, shape of the LFS - one step at a time in the Teaching phase... a "2-way street" = yes to Forward Down but also YES to shifting the center of mass back.... close the hand on the rein, the horse yields - open/release and the horse searches... encouraging a "tomato" shape by connecting half-halts , twinkling the whip to the hind leg area or rib cage /inside leg area to coach/create the shape you are looking for.... and twinkle the whip from behind in combination with connecting half halts to keep the shoulders free, elegant and lifted (especially in half-pass!) One step at a time (and using the curve of a circle or corner) when teaching HI. One step forward, one step back to keep the mind focused during liberty work, to create synchronicity. Keeping the weapon line "open" by moving the human body just a smidge to one side or the other and WOW - the half pass blossoms. 2mm! I have been focusing on creating art in my LFS foundation with Sansibar, creating a strong "IP & IF" (inner picture/inner feeling AND Rebecca Gilbert ST Instructor's inner British accent)... and channeling each human/horse participant. We are getting 2mm!! lol And let's not forget "butter wouldn't melt" - which I wrote down in quotes smack in the middle of my Key#5: Half Pass notes...
With a crowd of recollections raising their hands for recognition, it's hard to say which might be the most empowering, yet the idea of releasing your own hips as you walk with your horse (mentioned to myself and others at the clinic) is making (no pun intended) huge strides with us. I've played with the idea, trying to feel for what it really means in actuality, and have watched my horse's reaction. With a horse who can get overly ambitious at times, even pushy, I've tried for months to re-balance excess momentum without diminishing "try" or using too much telling style or half-halts (but have re-read the sections on the different half-halts since you referred to them during the clinic so their efficiency was well demonstrated again and again) with my hand in LFS. I've seen some growth in her taking more responsibility of her COM (thank you so much for helping us with the half-pass) but also some dulling of the walk in general since my mare has "heard me" and tried to compensate by lowering her energy---- it's difficult to get those stiff hind legs stepping into their strength work, and while I realize that the slowing down has good merit where I can have a deeper conversation about each piece of our play, there isn't mental zest to enter the stretch zone. Allowing my hips to open (I'm thinking Spanish tango!) and really complete a swinging stride myself has resulted in a different engagement in my mare---she's much lighter without being rushing, her own hips are "waggling" into the bend (I'm struggling with an apt description), and the LFS is such that I can move my hand away from the clip and have a "searching" conversation more and more. She's been offering some trot which was tricky before because she would tend to need her head raised, but now that I'm looser in my middle, she seems more unlocked as well, as if I was too focused on the "front" and the "hind" ends but not letting the middle release and re-shape. I realize that our presentation changes week to week anyway, and that I needed to offer her substantial support early on, but keeping myself on task as an exemplar has been a powerful tool and has kept at bay some of my tendency to get too technical. I hope this explanation does justice to what was given as a general recommendation, but which I've had an ah-ha moment over. More salsa and less marching!
For me, the concept that shines through is that it is better to have one step of the correct movement, than 100 almost there. When coupled with the five "R" of ST it is a highly effective training method.
Jamie Sue Ramirez
I'm not so talented with putting my thoughts into words, spoken or written, but I would say my biggest take away would be that I now truly understand what 'organic' means for ST!
Rebecca Gilbert ~UK Grade C Straightness Training Instructor
Italian clinic 2014
It has been two wonderful days!!!!
I would infinitely like to thank Simone! Without his translation we wouldn't have understood a bat and you have been adopted as the official translator now!!
A huge thanks to Rebecca Gilbert: It was an honour to work with you and discover your great sensitivity and immense skill!
I would like to thank al the participants on the course that they need to wake up at dawn!
Really thanks to all of you and thanks to Straightness Training!